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January 13, 2010 5:44 AM   Subscribe

Further to the recent FPP about the end of his time on Dr. Who, Whovians can now find out more behind the scenes information about Russell T Davies' thoughts, experience and creative process in The Writers Tale: The Final Chapter. Here, one can learn twenty or so things about the final season that you might not already know... or read Russell confronting head-on some criticisms of his work on the show...

This follows on from the original Writers Tale, which was a surprisingly honest insight into Davies' life and creative processes.

Before he worked on Who, Russell T Davies wrote the Dr. Who-like Dark Season, which starred a young Kate Winslet as one of three teens investigating the strange activities of Max Headroom look-a-like, Mr. Eldritch. (YTL here)

He also created the series Century Falls, about psychic children, and the controversial Queer as Folk (which contained a lot of Doctor Who references).
posted by lucien_reeve (75 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
4. Yet another was a kind of Star Trek pastiche - essentially “the Doctor on board the Enterprise, puncturing all that Starfleet pomposity with this sheer Doctor-ness”.

5. Speaking of which, back in 2004, a Doctor Who/Star Trek crossover was seriously on their list of plans, until Enterprise was axed.


I truly, truly did not think it was possible to hate Russell T. Davies more before reading this. I truly did.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 6:07 AM on January 13, 2010 [6 favorites]


Whoosiers
posted by DU at 6:18 AM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


This guy is the world's best-paid fan-fiction writer (though I confess I don't know how much the writers on "Bones" get paid...), and I've enjoyed every minute of it.
posted by ersatzkat at 6:34 AM on January 13, 2010


I have often heard the new Doctor Who described as being "as if somebody filmed fan-fiction". Is that a good thing?
posted by lucien_reeve at 6:38 AM on January 13, 2010


No.
posted by ninebelow at 6:43 AM on January 13, 2010


I have often heard the new Doctor Who described as being "as if somebody filmed fan-fiction". Is that a good thing?

That's actually almost identical to what I first said about the finale of the Tate's season: Russell T. Davies writes fanfics about his own show. "Journey's End" might as well have been titled "Mary Sue Fucks the Doctor."

Davies is leaving Doctor Who with about as much tact and effectiveness as the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan- yeah, there was a heap of gratitude when you first came and rescued us but we were hoping there might be and end to the massive suffering you've left as you've overstayed your welcome by about five years.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 6:45 AM on January 13, 2010 [4 favorites]


I have often heard the new Doctor Who described as being "as if somebody filmed fan-fiction".

Depends on who's writing the episode in question. Davies' episodes can get that way; Moffat's, not so much.

However, Torchwood I've heard described as being "as if somebody filmed SLASH fan-fiction", and I'll second that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:55 AM on January 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


read Russell confronting head-on some criticisms of his work on the show...

"Yes, it was meant to be that shit."
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 7:00 AM on January 13, 2010


If you get too upset with Davies, you can always take a break and watch Tennant attempt to give a goodbye speech.

adorable!
posted by you're a kitty! at 7:03 AM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Of course it could be worse... you could be an old-skool Survivors fan. The first episode of series 2 of the reboot was on the BBC last night. And it's got even more terrible than the down-right awful first series.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 7:07 AM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Some people take a childrens program about a man who can time travel in a phone box far too seriously. What next? Plot inconsistencies in Mr.Benn
posted by Damienmce at 7:16 AM on January 13, 2010


There were some good stories in there, a lot of them, but it's time for Russel to move on. The themes are getting repetitive, even for Dr Who.

Maybe we can have more Stephen Moffat. Assuming, of course, that he can keep up with or top his best work. I could use less dream-logic trans-humanism.
posted by clarknova at 7:25 AM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Two questions related to Dr. Who and the finale...

1. Who did the Doctor say he borrowed the money from to buy Donna's wedding gift?

2. Is it true that Who writers are contractually limited in how many more times the Daleks can appear?
posted by drezdn at 7:27 AM on January 13, 2010


I really can't find it in me to dislike Davies all that much (though XQUZYPHYR's quote FTA almost does it). I've loved Doctor Who since early childhood (back when the uber-cheesy aliens could actually scare the bejeebus out of me), and sorely missed it for most of my teens and early 20s.

Davies obviously can't bring back Tom Baker (the best Doctor, of course), though I suspect he tried a bit too hard with Tennant. But he has at least brought the series back to life. It had some weak plots, a bit too much deus ex, but overall, I considered it entirely enjoyable.

Now, as for the "ending" - The Doctor didn't start as a clever and funny know-it-all. Watch a few arcs from Hartnell's years, and see if you don't practically cringe at his disposition and seeming ineptitude... More of a cranky old absent minded professor type than the persona Baker (for good or bad) made a de-facto standard for "The" Doctor. And regarding the tangle of familial relations - Again going back to Hartnell, he had his grand-daughter as the very first companion. So nothing new under the Sun.

So... Lets see what happens next. I for one have no hesitation in saying that I'll watch it.
posted by pla at 7:28 AM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Davies obviously can't bring back Tom Baker (the best Doctor, of course), though I suspect he tried a bit too hard with Tennant.

In an earlier Who thread, someone linked to an article where they were talking about a script idea which would bring back Baker for an episode; something like, it's an alternate universe where Baker is still the 4th Doctor and Doctors 5 and on never happened. And somehow the current Doctor (they talked about doing it with Tennant, now it'd have to be Smith) has come through into this universe and has to "fix things" by killing him off so he can make way for all the others.

Which both simultaneously fascinates me and makes my head hurt.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:33 AM on January 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


1. Who did the Doctor say he borrowed the money from to buy Donna's wedding gift?

Donna's father. A lovely gesture until you realize he's just mucked about with causality and the fabric of history to give his last companion a healthy severance package. Still, Sarah Jane got the dog and you have to figure alien tech on earth changed things more than a few million quid in Donna's pocket will.

2. Is it true that Who writers are contractually limited in how many more times the Daleks can appear?

The Daleks are owned by Terry Nation's estate and not the BBC, true. Some deal has apparently been worked out as it is confirmed they'll be in the upcoming series (they're in the trailer as well). I really wish Moffat hadn't gone there, at least so soon, but I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt for a series or so based strictly on the strength of Blink alone.
posted by Freon at 7:43 AM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think RTD is a pompous fool who isn't half as talented as he thinks he is and I'm rather glad he's leaving. However, I'm not entirely convinced by Moffat. Sure, he's written some of the best new Who episodes, but they're all pretty similar when you get right down to it.

The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances - Scary reanimated things in masks.
The Girl in the Fireplace - Scary reanimated things in masks.
Blink - Scary reanimated statues.
Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead - Scary reanimated things in masks.

Although to be fair, there's not much scarier than a reanimated thing in a mask.

"Hey! Who turned out the lights?"
posted by elsietheeel at 8:03 AM on January 13, 2010 [6 favorites]


RTD is just determined to make me like himless and less with his rolling self promotion campaign. Give over, lety the other guy have his shot. I'm now seeing the specials as RTDs gigantic self-organised wake for his who run, and that the reason that RTD had the doctor crying because the doctor realised there wouldn't be any more RTD stories for him to star in, and RTD is brilliant, brilliant...
posted by Artw at 8:04 AM on January 13, 2010


Some people take a childrens program about a man who can time travel in a phone box far too seriously.

Police box. He travels in time in a police box.
posted by spinifex23 at 8:08 AM on January 13, 2010 [16 favorites]


Also, standard disclaimer about how he brought Who back, and that's a good thing, blah blah blah. But god does he seem to be going out of his way to give us cause to regret it at times.
posted by Artw at 8:10 AM on January 13, 2010


I can't decide whether I want to read The Writers Tale or not. Will the love for the interesting details win out over my desire to throttle RTD?

It's the season finales that do me in on him. His midseason episodes haven't been that bad, but the three regular season finales I've seen (Daleks v Cybermen, Tinkerbell Jesus, and that mess at the end of S4) leaves me cringing at the thought of watching End of Time even though I know all the spoilers and that the end of it IS the end of RTD.

I'm very ready for a new take on the Doctor. Thanks for reviving the program, we really appreciate it, and don't let the door hit you where the good Lord split you.
posted by immlass at 8:17 AM on January 13, 2010


Although to be fair, there's not much scarier than a reanimated thing in a mask. "Hey! Who turned out the lights?"

....are you my mummy?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:18 AM on January 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Having read a bit of The Writers Tale, one thing I would say is that it is very honest. Or, at least, it certainly appears to be.

This is both a great strength and a great weakness.

You do get to see the writing process from the inside, doubts, bad ideas, panic and all. On the other hand, if you don't like RTD, then...
posted by lucien_reeve at 8:22 AM on January 13, 2010


This may be a fascinating read in how horrible writing is done.

I'm surprised Davies didn't try a Life on Mars/Ashes to Ashes Who crossover.
posted by juiceCake at 8:23 AM on January 13, 2010


but the three regular season finales I've seen (Daleks v Cybermen, Tinkerbell Jesus, and that mess at the end of S4) leaves me cringing at the thought of watching End of Time even though I know all the spoilers and that the end of it IS the end of RTD.

Tinkerbell Space Jesus was possibly the worst of them. Tho it's hard to tell. However I have to defend the Daleks v Cybemen, because the smack talk scene between the Daleks and Cybermen was one of the best scenes in the new series.
posted by MrBobaFett at 8:33 AM on January 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


This guy is the world's best-paid fan-fiction writer...

I have often heard the new Doctor Who described as being "as if somebody filmed fan-fiction".


I don't really agree with this.

The last Dr Who special got ratings of 10.4 million viewers, or 36% share of the audience, or about a sixth of the UK population.

I think what Americans sometimes miss is that in Britain, Dr Who is not a show for nerds. It gets a big, popular, family audience. Nerds watch it, but it's aimed at normal people.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 9:00 AM on January 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Normal peoples is morons.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:09 AM on January 13, 2010


I think what Americans sometimes miss is that in Britain, Dr Who is not a show for nerds. It gets a big, popular, family audience. Nerds watch it, but it's aimed at normal people.

Speaking as a British audience member, I'm not sure that a large number of viewers and a general fanfiction tone are mutually exclusive...
posted by lucien_reeve at 9:18 AM on January 13, 2010


I read about half of the first "Writer's Tale" book before I had to stop. RTD describes in exquisite detail how he's always running behind in his script-writing (like "script was due three weeks ago and I haven't started yet"), and it was giving me traumatic flashbacks to college when I wrote all my papers three hours before they were due. I got the impression that, like my college papers, sometimes the stress and panic produced amazing things, but sometimes they produced some pretty lame shit. The only problem is that RTD's definition of "lame shit" is much different than mine: he wrote and re-wrote Voyage of the Damned very quickly and deemed it a success of his process, while I thought it was his tritest piece of writing thus far and not very enjoyable.

Generally I've liked RTD throughout his run, but he's lost a lot of cachet in my mind this past year, both with the uneven specials and Torchwood: Children of Earth, which masked a lot of shoddy writing with its srs bsns plotline. His unapologetic nature is frustrating ("just admit that Last of the Time Lords was unmitigated pap!"), but the fact that he's so open about his process does make him interesting to talk about.
posted by brookedel at 9:21 AM on January 13, 2010


I wonder how many people who are in this thread complaining about RTD's term at the helm of the show continued to watch, regardless of their fanboy nitpickiness about the series.

If you really hate something, do the smart thing and shut it off. Continuing to watch just so you have something to bitch about is silly.
posted by hippybear at 9:22 AM on January 13, 2010


Some people take a childrens program about a man who can time travel in a phone box far too seriously.

Police box. He travels in time in a police box.


You are both right.

And while I'm glad to see Davis give way to Moffat, I'll give credit where it is due, Davis gave us Eccleston who was, in my opinion, the best Doctor. He was the first one that brought a scary underlying anger to the character. As if his happy was in place to keep a lot of pain from pouring out and destroying everything.

Tennant seemed to get that a bit in later seasons, and I was sad to see him go as well. Hopefully this new kid works out.
posted by quin at 9:38 AM on January 13, 2010 [5 favorites]


If you really hate something, do the smart thing and shut it off. Continuing to watch just so you have something to bitch about is silly.

Pfft. That's at least half of what fandom is, no matter what the subject matter. Metafilter included.
posted by Freon at 9:44 AM on January 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


Let's remember that RTD freed Doctor Who from a time-lock of complete goofiness, which it seemed destined to spend all eternity floating around in. I say this as a card-holding sofa-jumping child of the Tom Baker years, who keeps trying to watch old episodes on YouTube, only to be reminded at every turn that they. did. not. age. well. at. all. (Oddly enough, I've taken a curious liking to John Pertwee.)

The fact that RTD didn't write a non-ludicrous season finale between 'Parting of the Ways' and 'End of Time' (the second half of which was great) doesn't detract from the quality of the series itself. It's a fair price to pay, I think, for the fact that the series themselves gave us plenty of reasons to keep watching, and keep caring. If RTD had really botched his job, we wouldn't be arguing about this; we'd have wandered away ages ago.
posted by bicyclefish at 9:50 AM on January 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Rusty can be a great writer of character and dialogue. Especially when he restrains himself and writes a story of limited plot-scale - the best example being Midnight. However sometimes, particularly in season finales/specials, he loses all sense of proportion and just heaps more and more stuff in of bigger! and better! scale - towing planets across the universe, flying space cruise ships over Buck House, Tinkerbell Space Jesus, century long traffic jams, that kind of thing. End Of Time is a good example of this: there's about three or four plot strands in there that Rusty just kind of abandons or does nothing with. ("That's all forgotten now, because we're on another story.")
posted by Electric Dragon at 9:57 AM on January 13, 2010


hippybear, I gave up on Torchwood for exactly that reason. It's an unpleasant show and I can't watch it with dinner (see: Countrycide, aka the Welsh Chainsaw Massacre), so my husband watches it alone. But I've really enjoyed new Who for the most part, although there are things about RTD's tenure I really hate, most of which are embodied in the season finales.

And yes, MrBobaFett, I can forgive a lot of what's wrong with S2's finale for the smack talk. Just not all. The worst problem with it is that there's essentially no continuity from a big thing like that in the main series except for the aftermath of Rose being sucked into the other universe. There's more continuity for Earth in Torchwood, where there's a whole episode about the aftermath for a partially converted Cyber(wo)man. And since the inability to let Rose go is one of the things I hate about RTD's tenure, that's a thing for me.

I'm going back and watching the old series on Netflix now. There are a lot of Baker and Pertwee episodes available for streaming and still more on DVD. I still love it, cheesy special effects and cringeworthy dialogue and all. I'm glad it's back, even with all the things I don't like about it.
posted by immlass at 10:21 AM on January 13, 2010


I gave up on Torchwood for exactly that reason. It's an unpleasant show and I can't watch it with dinner

Indeed. I can't watch shows with needles in them, and I've had to banish House and ER reruns from dinnertime because it's impossible to eat with one hand held up between my face and the screen.

Torchwood was a strange show for me. More adult than Doctor Who, odd sense of humor... and I have Children Of Earth still on my DVR because, while I know I really should rip the episodes off of there using my DVD Recorder, all I can think about was the 3 days of mild PTSD I suffered after watching it the first time and am unsure that I want to go through that again. (Yes, brilliant television, going places NO American network would ever dare to go, and I applaud them for it... but DAMN! It fucked me UP!)

Still, the list of shows I've abandoned or simply don't watch is longer than most, I suspect. Life is too short to consume media that aggravates, IMO.
posted by hippybear at 10:55 AM on January 13, 2010


Children Of Earth was a nice surprise but before that Torchwood was very much something that i would not watch because I found myself complaining about it more than i was actually enjoying it. Doctor Who I'd watch because the bad bits were mostly predictable - the specials and finales, mostly - and they're a small price to pay for the bits that are actually enjoyable.
posted by Artw at 11:14 AM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm surprised Davies didn't try a Life on Mars/Ashes to Ashes Who crossover.

Yes, if Sam Tyler met Insane!Master from End of Time.
posted by Telpethoron at 11:32 AM on January 13, 2010


Phillip Glenister would make a great Doctor.
posted by juiceCake at 11:33 AM on January 13, 2010


A Star Trek/Dr Who crossover? I hadn't heard of that. Will need to do some googlin', methinks, just to see how that whole terrible idea would have played out.
posted by Effigy2000 at 1:11 PM on January 13, 2010


If you really hate something, do the smart thing and shut it off. Continuing to watch just so you have something to bitch about is silly.

You're ignoring the huge power that continuity has over people. There's so much back story and long-developed goodwill involved that the urge to find out what happens next is enough to carry one through the limitations of the present offering. It's not like turning on a movie, realizing that Chevy Chase is in it, and deciding that life is too short.

You've also got RTD's inconsistency. You can't guarantee it's going to be shit, so you watch in hope. The recent End of Time is the case in point. The first part was much worse than the second part - pretty much the only good things about the first part was some excellent acting in a Cafe, and the ending - in which the now insane Master's evil improv/plan is revealed to be insane and exactly the kind of thing 12 year olds will talk about for ages (regardless of how poorly executed the later ramifications of it turn out to be).

To get back to RTD's comments: It's all very well to have the doctor 'in the now' and having all this stuff miraculous day-saving just turn up, but if the stated rules and ramifications of it don't stick, cohere, or survive a minimal amount of scrutiny then you *are* essentially just "vandalising" the story. HG Wells (I hope) said "if everything is possible, nothing is interesting" - even if things come at some perceived cost, if that cost is just retconned away through some other Deus Ex Machina later on, you might as well be writing for the X-Men. JK Rowling is sometimes accused of doing this (oh - turns out there's this magical thing with this power that comes in handy at the end) but she is at least mostly consistent with what that thing does and means for the universe she is writing in - a lesson Davies could stand to learn.
posted by Sparx at 1:20 PM on January 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


you might as well be writing for the X-Men

Oi!

Actually Grant Morrison (who's had the best run on X-Men that isn't by Chris Claremont) does something very very like the "writing in the now" thing from time to time - at it's best you get a crazy awesome Doom Patrol episode, at it's worst you get Final Crisis. When RTD was doing it it was all Final Crisis all the time.

Then again, reread something like The Invisibles or Animal Man and you'll see that some of it was meticulously planned way in advance.
posted by Artw at 1:25 PM on January 13, 2010


(Morrison's X-Men run has, of course, been ret-conned almost entirely out of existance, and where it hasn't other writers have made a total nonsense of it. Oh, and that Whedon run? Far inferior. )
posted by Artw at 1:27 PM on January 13, 2010


No offense to the X-Men intended, but it is a diferent style of stoerytelling when you can ret-con entire runs, rather than the more traditional Whovia style of keeping the broad strokes and occasionally smudging a detail or factoid to keep the story moving from A to B.

And good call on the invisibles. Now there's some random plot developments that did, in the final analysis, all hang together (with, adittedly, the odd piece of inexplicability thrown in for flavour). Unfortunately, that level of plotting tends not to happen when your RTD script is three weeks late and you haven't started it yet.
posted by Sparx at 3:02 PM on January 13, 2010


You're ignoring the huge power that continuity has over people. There's so much back story and long-developed goodwill involved that the urge to find out what happens next is enough to carry one through the limitations of the present offering.

I'm not sure it's only the present offering which has had major problems, however. I know you're not using "continuity" in this manner, but even a brief googling brought up the long history of Doctor Who shitting on its own history from both H2G2 and Wikipedia. And I really don't think RTD has trespassed in any way which hasn't already occurred already in the long history of Doctor Who.

And given the number of people here on MetaFilter who are now saying that they're watching the prior shows (not re-watching, mind you), I'm pretty certain that continuity isn't what keeps them watching week after week.

Anyway, I have no real complaint with RTD. He entertained me more than nearly any other show on television for the past 4-5 years with the revival of the series, and I wish him all the best in the future. I certainly can't say the same for any other television writer that I know the name of... Whedon? Not so much. Abrams? um... no. Do I even KNOW the names of any others? Not off the top of my head. So he's accomplished a lot right there, I think.
posted by hippybear at 3:33 PM on January 13, 2010


hippybear - I am re-watching Four and Five, but some of the older stuff is first-time for me.

I don't expect fantastic continuity from Doctor Who, but I don't like obvious breakage either. The finales (which, together with the emphasis on Rose, are the bulk of my problem with RTD's tenure) tend to suspend my disbelief by the neck until it's beyond dead for a lot of reason. Continuity's only a part of it, though.

For me the biggest continuity break has been a feel issue: the introduction of the Doctor's romantic obsession with companions and pseudo-companions, with Rose as the worst-case scenario. Recently I watched the last Jo Grant episode, where Jo leaves Three to get married. It's clear that he's jealous and that to a certain extent travelling with the Doctor had filled the place of having a boyfriend in Jo's life, but there's no sense of romance between the Doctor and Jo. Part of that may be the age gap, since the Doctor was quite a bit older than Jo, but I never had the sense that any of the older non-Time Lord companions I remember were in love with the Doctor the way Rose was. Similarly, I never had the sense that the companions were objects of the Doctor's romantic interest.

When RTD implied that Sarah Jane Smith, who was one of my youthful idols, was really in love with the Doctor in a romantic sense, I found that a worse continuity breakage than any nitpicking about series history. It didn't happen that way because I was there watching it in the 70s and early 80s on PBS and I remember how it went down. And, frankly, on re-watching, the original Sarah Jane serials align with my memory and not with RTD's reinvention of that relationship. The stupid girlfriend/ex-girlfriend spat between Rose and Sarah Jane in School Reunion was the Midichlorian Moment of RTD's tenure for me and a low point in the new series.
posted by immlass at 3:52 PM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Fanfiction and Tinkerbell Jesus aside, my biggest complaint with Rusty is the awful way he writes female characters. S1 Rose Tyler was fine, but instead of growing as a character, she seriously regressed in S2. Moffat described her as the "needy girlfriend." She was selfish, jealous, and immature. Yet Rusty kept harping on her being the most super special awesomest companion ever. The ghost of Rose overshadowed Martha, who would have been a much better character if she hadn't been written as lovestruck over the Doctor. Rusty has admitted that Martha was intended to be second-best to Rose, and while I don't believe it was intentional, I find it squicky that the first fulltime companion of color was created to be inferior to a white woman.

The whole pining over the Doctor thing was a serious flaw of Rusty's. Rose, Martha, even Sarah Jane Smith, who he reinvented as a spinster with attachment issues. She couldn't get close to anyone after being abandoned by the Doctor, which, frankly, is completely out of character. Donna, who in her first appearance was incredibly unlikeable, was the best companion he ever created, due in large part to the fact that she actually was not in love with the Doctor. She experienced enormous character growth, only... not really, in the end.

In Torchwood, Gwen was meant as a strong female lead, but she was the most unsympathetic character, which, when taken with Donna, seems to imply that strong women are inherently unlikable. Tosh, on the other hand, was weak, codependent, and, surprise, lovestruck.

On preview: What immlass said.
posted by Ruki at 4:11 PM on January 13, 2010 [6 favorites]


I'm not sure it's only the present offering which has had major problems, however. I know you're not using "continuity" in this manner, but even a brief googling brought up the long history of Doctor Who shitting on its own history from both H2G2 and Wikipedia.

You're, of course, right, and in its decades long history, gaffes have been made. I would draw the distinction between production gaffes of the type most (but not all) of the examples you provide, and RTD contradicting stories he himself wrote a couple of years ago.
(And I like immalss's description of 'obvious breakage'. And I know I was using 'continuity' in an atypical way - a kind combination of the cliffhangers episode to episode, the investment in continuing characters from storyline to storyline, and the recurrence of elements - villians/timelords etc - that we recognise from the further reaches of the past. These are the things that gave RTDs Who a large part of its appeal to start off with, making comparisons with Demons and Primeval somewhat, though not entirely, disengenuous. Who had an enormous publicity advantage right out the gate.

Oddly enough (or perhaps not, no one ever agrees on these things) immlass's examples of Sarah Jane Smith being in love with the Doctor is something I find forgiveable - that's the smudging of a detail to get the story going - I'm not *that* picky - that kind of story just wouldn't have flown in the 70s. Far worse than me is RTD setting up something as Lost and Gone Forever and Tragic, and then it popping up later at a ratings appropriate time. As I quoted, if everything is possible, nothing is interesting, and if they price you pay for your Deus Ex Machina turns out to be no price at all, then eventually you lose interest because the drama has become cheap and meaningless. I suspect that's the reason why RTD as the showrunner has become less popular as time progresses - in his race to top what has come before, he violates much of what what made the previous stuff memorable.

The man can write, sure, and he certainly did his share of editing on episodes that didn't bear his name and he usually did a fine job. The bottle show he wrote, Midnight, showed what he can do when arbitrary limitations are applied. Many writers perform better under such constrictions (Think Hush, or The Body with Whedon). But while I can't ignore the fact that his spectacles were indeed, often quite spectacular, I still maintain that some reining in of his more obvious excesses might have made a better, less frustrating show overall.

Of course, it's all moot now. Let's see how Moffat does.
posted by Sparx at 4:30 PM on January 13, 2010


The ghost of Rose overshadowed Martha, who would have been a much better character if she hadn't been written as lovestruck over the Doctor. Rusty has admitted that Martha was intended to be second-best to Rose, and while I don't believe it was intentional, I find it squicky that the first fulltime companion of color was created to be inferior to a white woman.

Well, while I must say that I have much more love for RTD than many here (the flaws are horribly obvious, for the most part, but I don't think they outweigh the positives), I did a hell of a lot of facepalms vis a vis race over the course of this show. Not since Joss Whedon has anyone who I really, really think is trying very hard to be socially progressive so often made me uncomfortable as a viewer due to just cloddish handling of the subject. Like, remember how in the Shakespeare episode Martha's all, "um, isn't it gonna be an issue that this is like hundreds of years ago and I'm black?" and the Doctor's all, "nah, just roll on," and it totally wasn't an issue that Martha was black? I'm not saying this is something that would necessarily be true in all periods of European/American history, but I am saying this is really a fun fantasy show that doesn't need to go there, it is (let us recall!) a show basically for kids, it's ultimately a game of let's-pretend, and why should it just be for white kids, right? After thirty-plus years, shouldn't a person of color be out there doing cool shit just like everybody else? Not to mention she's beautiful and smart and cool and generally a fine role model for young viewers! So make your nod to the one question everyone would have seeing this character travel in time AND MOVE ON.

Really. That was great! I was so proud of you, show. So, so proud!

And then.

Well, the "Human Nature/Family of Blood" thing went there in a way it probably didn't need to, but Martha at least got to show up that stuck-up chick. I...really don't think you needed to go there, show, I really don't think you should have, but okay. These are very well-written episodes, which counts for something -- right? I want to think that, because I otherwise love these episodes, but I'm in no hurry to watch them again. I guess you could say you've kept it real, show, shown us something ugly and true; but on the other hand, I don't remember any episodes where Rose had to work in a factory in the '30s and deal with a boss slapping her ass and there was nothing she could do about it or whatever. I mean, that kind of thing would have been an ugly truth about way back when, too, but I don't recall us ever seeing anything like that, you know? But okay. I wish you hadn't gone there, I don't think you should have, I frankly don't think the show is built for that, but whatever. I can deal with it, unhappily. This time. This ONE time.

...Annnnnnnd then you've got a guy forcing Martha's mom to wear a maid's uniform and call him Master while she's enslaved for a year, and at that point? Man, fuck you, show.

I seriously think, as I said, that Davies meant well, and that in some nuts way he thought he was confronting racism with shit like this head-on, but it was a miscalculation. A BIG one. He would have been better off just confronting racism by making race a non-issue. I mean, the interracial couples no one ever comments on? Yes, do that. More like that, please.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:49 PM on January 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Mickey and Martha being randomly stuck together was a bit odd. Though I do like how Mickey went from being a likable chump in S1 to being a kick-ass cyberman fighter.
posted by Artw at 4:55 PM on January 13, 2010 [6 favorites]


My biggest complaint with Rusty is the awful way he writes female characters.

This is... actually kind of true. I'm not sure it's so much awful writing of female characters as much as just awful writing of secondary characters, though. I mean, Mickey. But still, my favorite female characters from the last five years have been River Song and Sally Sparrow, so I am optimistic about Moffat's tenure.

That said, I fully expect a reaction up on the 'filter similar to that of a specific section of the Obama base, where everyone suddenly freaks out because Moffat isn't in fact Jesus and doesn't make everything perfect right away.
posted by you're a kitty! at 5:07 PM on January 13, 2010


Trying hard to get overexcited, but that trailer is making it difficult. And Moffat has credits for 7 episodes of the new series. 7! Squeeeee!
posted by Artw at 5:19 PM on January 13, 2010


Oddly enough (or perhaps not, no one ever agrees on these things) immlass's examples of Sarah Jane Smith being in love with the Doctor is something I find forgiveable - that's the smudging of a detail to get the story going

It's a smudging of a detail well-loved character in exactly the way that RTD mishandles characters, particularly female, as Ruki points out. And the awful part is it does nothing whatsoever for the story. Nothing except a bit of Sarah Jane's interaction with Rose would have changed if RTD hadn't needed to point out one more time about the specialness and importance of Rose and the Doctor's special emo that only Rose could cure. That Sarah Jane was a great friend to the Doctor and would have risked her life for him fits with old series canon. But the stupid catty spat undermines the Sarah Jane we old skool fans we all know and love. The comment around our house about Rose (and Martha, and Jack, and basically everybody but Donna) was that just because RTD was in love with the Doctor didn't mean everybody else in the whole bloody show had to be.

And let me also co-sign kittens for breakfast's comments on Martha too. RTD did a lot of good, but he really missed the point with the companions.
posted by immlass at 5:22 PM on January 13, 2010


Martha was definately The Wasted Companion. Didn't she have to get a job to support the doctors lazy ass in Blink as well?
posted by Artw at 5:50 PM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


And the awful part is it does nothing whatsoever for the story.

See, that's where I'd disagree. The Doctor goes on about the short term shelf life (my term) of his companions because of the otherwise inevitability of watching them grow old and die - which SJS would have had some inkling of because she's a smart person. In the face of which any human is going to feel annoyed and jealous to start with when confronted with that fact, plus the latest chav-9000 model being rude about her age, decades later.

That's an interesting direction to take - and something you wouldn't have gotten pre-RTD because the whole companion thing used to be far more simplistically portrayed. Asking a question like 'what happens to a companion 20 years later' is a perfectly legitimate way for a reboot to go. You might not like the answer as written, but I find it quite a defensible theme to explore.

Plus - the aliens of the week offer the Doctor Godlike powers to join them, specifically mentioning being able to travel with with his companions forever, without aging. So it is thematically linked to the actual plot.

just because RTD was in love with the Doctor didn't mean everybody else in the whole bloody show had to be.

Now there I would absolutely agree with you. That science guy in the flying bus episode was just embarrassing! I don't think going there with SJS is unforgiveable, and they didn't really lay it on with a trowel in that episode (though it was clear) but in context, with humanity swooning en masse for the Doctor's cheeky, cheeky grin, it's certainly part of an overall problem.
posted by Sparx at 6:00 PM on January 13, 2010


any human is going to feel annoyed and jealous to start with

Plus, they both got over it and had a laugh at the Doctor's expense fairly quickly. I actually believed and enjoyed their interaction throughout - and SJS was my first companion too, so I do hold her in high esteem.
posted by Sparx at 6:07 PM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


In the face of which any human is going to feel annoyed and jealous to start with when confronted with that fact, plus the latest chav-9000 model being rude about her age, decades later.

No argument there. Tom Baker referred to SJS as the Doctor's best friend (in Seeds of Doom, I think) and there is certainly cause for SJ to think "well, if I was your best friend, why didn't you come back for me after you finished on Gallifrey?" I buy that.

What I don't buy is that Sarah Jane was ever, for a second, romantically interested in either Jon Pertwee or Tom Baker. The whole "I never married because the Doctor was the only man for me" thing just came out of nowhere, and that, specifically, is what I objected to. I think the theme of companion left behind could have been wonderfully explored without forcing in a romantic subplot.
posted by Ruki at 6:15 PM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


The whole "I never married because the Doctor was the only man for me" thing just came out of nowhere, and that, specifically, is what I objected to.

They went for this a bit more in the Sarah Jane Adventures, but I think it's partly that humans in general don't really cut it after traveling with the Doctor. That was implied with Donna too, even though she was never mooning after him.
posted by you're a kitty! at 6:33 PM on January 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Plus - the aliens of the week offer the Doctor Godlike powers to join them, specifically mentioning being able to travel with with his companions forever, without aging. So it is thematically linked to the actual plot.

None of the thematic arc in School Reunion or S2 generally requires Sarah Jane to be romantically in love with the Doctor. In fact, the exact failing of RTD's retcon of Sarah Jane is that it strongly suggests that the only meaningful relationships the Doctor have are romantic in nature somehow. Even when there's no actual romance, i.e., Donna, RTD kept ramming it home that everybody assumed they were a thing as if there were something weird or wrong about the fact that they weren't (in opposition to the entire original series, pretty much).

One of the great things about Sarah Jane (and Leela) in the original series was that even when the costumes were there for fanservice, it wasn't like the female companions were solely there as love interests. RTD's treatment of them was a giant step backward in this area.
posted by immlass at 7:33 PM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I also suspect that part of the whole newfound sexualizing of the Doctor's relationship with the companions has to do with the fact that, you know, David Tennant.
posted by you're a kitty! at 7:44 PM on January 13, 2010 [6 favorites]


Well yeah, I'd want to make out with David Tennant, too. But Rusty set up the sexualization of the Doctor with Chris Eccleston, when the only way to reabsorb the time vortex happened to be with a kiss. Plus, previous companions had no qualms leaving the Doctor to pursue other relationships. Leela, Jo, and even, in the end, Martha and Tom Mickey.

To be fair, I'm not advocating that the Doctor be a completely asexual being. City of Death totally comes across as the Doctor and Romana's honeymoon in Paris, though a lot of that probably had to do with Tom Baker's and Lalla Ward's offscreen courtship coming through on screen. It just gets tiring when every new companion is mooning over him. Like immglass said, there's the suggestion that the only meaningful relationships are romantic. And although I think Rusty was the worst offender with that, Moffat's guilty of it, too - Madame du Pompadour, River Song, a snippet of the S5 preview. I find it slightly less annoying because Moffat's shown himself capable of writing strong female characters who don't fall all over themselves when interacting with the Doctor (Sally Sparrow, who I really wanted to see as a companion, and Nancy) and I can only hope that continues.

And again, to be fair, since I'm being very critical of Rusty here, I thought S1 was fantastic.
posted by Ruki at 8:24 PM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


It just gets tiring when every new companion is mooning over him.

This is why I fell completely and utterly in love with Donna in the beginning of Season 4, with this exchange:

Doctor: I just...I just want a mate.

Donna: (horrified) You just want to mate????

Doctor: No! No, a mate! I just want a mate!

Donna: Well, good, because I'm not mating with you, sunshine! You're just a long streak of....alien nothing!

Even though they sometimes had too much fun with the whole "are you two....?" thing, she was good for puncturing the whole schmoop thing and cutting through some of the Doctor's bullshit.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:02 PM on January 13, 2010 [4 favorites]


I seriously think, as I said, that Davies meant well, and that in some nuts way he thought he was confronting racism with shit like this head-on, but it was a miscalculation. A BIG one.

That's interesting.

I wonder if that's a commonly held point of view: that in some ways the best way of dealing with racism on a show like this is to largely ignore race altogether?

Doesn't that run the risk of creating something bland? Or of ignoring an element of reality that made the past distinct and different from the present in an important way? (In a similar vein, I always have mixed feelings about the tendency for modern shows like this to ignore the degree of casual violence towards children that existed in the past - you often see a kid being cheeky and getting away with it, and I always think "But somebody would have hit him!"). Does it cheapen the genuine struggles of people in the past to portray the past as having been much like the present (i.e. is the show effectively saying "Elizabethans weren't really racists")?

I'm genuinely curious: I don't really have any strong opinions on this one way or the other, but clearly the issue of race in science fiction is pretty problematic, to put it mildly (see also, the debate on the Avatar thread)!
posted by lucien_reeve at 1:23 AM on January 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


No argument there. Tom Baker referred to SJS as the Doctor's best friend (in Seeds of Doom, I think) and there is certainly cause for SJ to think "well, if I was your best friend, why didn't you come back for me after you finished on Gallifrey?" I buy that.

I like the idea that a companion might be the Doctor's friend. There are lots of other important relationships, other than romantic ones, that might just make more sense for a 900 year old alien being and a human - teacher and promising student; older brother and younger brother; parent and amusing child; even human and beloved pet.

(The tendency for the companions to be women, at the moment, might make some of those come across as a bit dodgy!)

I'm not saying romance is bad, but perhaps Rusty's fondness for it might come from his belief that all writing is sexual (I think he says as much in the original Writer's Tale).
posted by lucien_reeve at 1:29 AM on January 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


I wonder if that's a commonly held point of view: that in some ways the best way of dealing with racism on a show like this is to largely ignore race altogether?

What I'm saying is that would be the best way for RTD to deal with it, because he sucks at it.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:53 AM on January 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Though I do like how Mickey went from being a likable chump in S1 to being a kick-ass cyberman fighter.

Oddly enough that's my career plan for this coming year
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 5:09 AM on January 14, 2010 [6 favorites]


One thing that should be interesting in the next season is that Eleven is rumored to have trouble with the fact that he looks so young. Imagine having 900 plus years of experience, but not having people take you seriously because you look like you could front an emo band.
posted by drezdn at 8:30 AM on January 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


But that would be one hell of an emo band.
posted by bicyclefish at 6:24 PM on January 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


Sexy Daleks
posted by Artw at 2:32 PM on January 17, 2010


Aw, I missed the latest Who thread.

Two of my friends went as the tenth Doctor and a sexy Dalek for Halloween. Great costumes.

The Writer's Tale contains an exchange between Moffat and RTD over episodes they were writing in season 4. Moffat's Forest of the Dead and RTD's Turn Left were both to appear at the end of the season, and both of them show a parallel life that Donna could have had. That was a little worrisome, so they needed to make sure that their parallel Donnas didn't overlap too much. They briefly spatted over who got to give Donna kids. The debate went like this: RTD writes this big long blustery e-mail, saying "my script's due first, ha ha, I win." Then Moffat sends a short response in which he says, all casually, "well, OK, they're yours. I only needed them for this one scene where Donna's child tells her that she thinks she goes out of existence whenever Donna closes her eyes." RTD, conceding: "Oooh, OK, you win; you get the kids."

I hope this is a good synecdoche for their two tenures.
posted by painquale at 2:36 PM on January 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


Turn Left was actually a pretty good one from RTD, I thought.
posted by Artw at 3:04 PM on January 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Neil Gaiman to write a Doctor Who episode, according to Twitter reports from the SFX Weekender.
posted by Artw at 12:59 PM on February 6, 2010


He's sort of confirming it...

I'm hoping it's about a performance of Midsummers Night's Dream... by Daleks.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:50 AM on February 7, 2010


In the vein of Neil Gaiman's episode:

I swear I heard a rumor that they were trying to negotiate with J. K. Rowling about being IN an episode. Something about her being affected by some temporal/alien beastie thing, whereby everything she wrote actually came to life, and The Doctor had to fight it off. I have no idea how legitimate this rumor was, but I kind of would have liked that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:07 AM on February 7, 2010


I think RTD was saying something about that. Sounds terrible.

Now I'm just holding out for a Kim Newman episode.
posted by Artw at 9:17 AM on February 7, 2010


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